For Each Other!

This picture took place seven months ago as we said goodbye to our dear Ben. And every time I look at this picture and remember that day, it still gives me chills. It was a powerful moment that is hard to put into words (yet I try) but was captured by the lens of a phone camera.

Most of the faces are hard to see because we were praying and commending our friend to God’s care. My friend Bryant; Ben’s best friend has his hand on Ben’s urn. Our seminary professor who led the commendation is standing near Bryant. To my left is Ben’s wife Mara who is holding their daughter Elizabeth. There are so many friends and family who are standing in that circle. A cloud of witnesses all linked back to our beloved Ben.

Tears kept falling from my face as we said goodbye. I remember looking around the sanctuary and seeing others tears falling too. I knew that this grief was not being held alone. But I also was trying to be so strong. In fact, my friend Carrie turned to me at one point and said, “You’re being so strong.” I looked at her and simply said, “Im trying.” I knew that I needed to be strong for Mara, for Elizabeth, for Ben’s parents,  for Ben’s siblings, for all those that loved Ben. It was not easy, but somehow God surrounded me and gave me the strength I needed that day.

After the funeral, we headed over to a local brewery/bar that opened up just for us. In that brewery, the table was set and the wine was poured as we communed together. Voices raised as we sang some of Ben’s favorite hymns–beer and hymns; a fitting tribute for our friend. I can still hear that moving rendition of Canticle of the Turning permeating the air. Stories were shared as we remembered our friend.

In the midst of our grief, laughter and joy found their way to the surface. “Weeping may come for the night, but joy comes with the morning (Psalm 30:5).”

In that brewery, I was surrounded by many friends, but also some acquaintances. But I left that brewery that afternoon knowing these people were all now my friends too because together we loved and were loved by our friend. Together, we had held one another in our grief. Together, we had celebrated Ben’s life. Together, we will continue to share stories of Ben with his daughter. We will make sure she knows who her dad is and how much he loved her and her mom.

If grief has taught me anything, it is that grief is never meant to be done alone. It is meant to be shared together. When grief causes me to doubt, others believe for me until I can believe for myself again. When grief prevents me from turning to God and praying because I can’t find the words, others pray for me. And when I can’t sing because the grief is too deep, others sing for me until I can find my voice again.

And for that, I’m so grateful! Because when Elizabeth starts Kindergarten, we will need to be there for Mara as she walks into that school alone. There will be so many times when we will need to believe, pray and sing for each other when grief rears its head in the midst of life’s joys and sorrows.

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Linking up with Kelly and the Ra Ra linkup, Mary and Tell His Story, Holley and Coffee for your Heart and Kristin and Porch Stories. 



At a Loss for Words

Sometimes you sit down to write and the words just don’t seem to come. Sometimes you find yourself sitting at the computer desk praying that the well will finally open and the words will spill forth. Grief is a lot like that too, isn’t it? There are times I want to talk about the one that I have lost. There are other times that the reminders of them is just too much. And yet other times when all you want to do is let the tears fall.

A dear friend shared the other day how about 3 pm in the afternoon, her body seems to take over and things just don’t quite work right. 3 pm is the time that her husband was killed in the car accident. The truth is that our physical pain and our emotional pain are inextricably linked together. Our physical and emotional pain are a reminder of our own humanity just like Christ experienced his own humanity on the cross too.

As you know, I am writing about my own grief. It is amazing to me that I have lost ten individuals in the last year. Most of them unexpected deaths. It is all so much…all too much! And I find myself sitting here typing away, hoping and praying that my words will bless others. But also hoping and praying that these words will also be a healing balm to my soul. There is something so incredibly holy about sharing these beloved souls with you. Something so holy about remembering who and whose they are. Yet there are so many times that I am at a loss for words.

I also know that it is good to talk about it with a trained counselor too. I haven’t always been so good about talking with professionals about stuff like this…but I am moving forward and finally feel comfortable doing that. So my friends, if you are grieving, know that is totally ok to talk to a professional. In fact, I believe God wants us to talk to others. God does not want us to grieve alone and is why God surrounds us with community. Community that walks hand and hand with one another especially when we do not know what to say.

So, my friends, in the words of Psalm 30; verse five, know that “Weeping may come for the night, but joy, joy comes with the morning.”

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Finding Peace in an Unlikely Place

It’s that time of the year when scary movies come to our television and move screens. During those movies, cemeteries often become a place of fear. Yet that’s not what a cemetery is at all.

Have you ever taken the time to walk through a cemetery reading the headstones? I remember a story one of former colleagues told me one time. He took his junior high age daughter to a cemetery and told her to read the headstones. After awhile, he asked, “What did you notice?” She had found her favorite aunts headstone. She replied, “They were moms, dads, etc. To which this colleague replied, “Exactly. Cemeteries are not scary places filled with ghouls, goblins, etc. Its a place where someone’s grandma, grandpa, aunt, uncle, mom, dad, brother, sister, etc are resting. It’s a holy place.”

Cemeteries are indeed holy places. They bring about a sense of peace knowing our loved one is resting peacefully and is united with Jesus. Just the other day, my family friend Jim’s daughter Madison shared how she didn’t know that a cemetery would give her so much peace. But it’s where she most feels her dads presence.

Cemeteries are incredibly beautiful. Think of the stories they can tell. I will always remember standing at Jims burial and turning and seeing Rachel’s grave next to his. Two beautiful beloved children of God. It was a poignant moment; a reminder of God’s great love for God’s people.

I also remember standing and watching as my Grandpa Sam’s urn was buried at the feet of his mom and dad. Then several years later, Grandma Bess being buried next to all of them. A lot of love is held in that one grave.

So if you have lost someone, it’s totally ok to sit and chat with them. It’s ok to sit at the cemetery to feel peace and love. Because I promise, cemeteries are filled with so much love. It’s truly a holy place.

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Praising God in the Storms

I am linking up for the Five Minute Friday. This is also Day 5 of the Write 31 Days challenge. The FMF is hosted by Kate Motaung over at our Five Minute Friday website. Today’s word prompt is “praise.” We would love to have you join us.

How does one praise God in the midst of loss and grief?

The truth is that it is difficult to praise God when we want our friends and loved ones on this side of heaven with us. But what I’ve learned is that God often finds a way to show us hope so we can praise him.

Songs sung and lifted to God in a brewery in Wisconsin. A special Beer and Hymns for our beloved Ben. A fitting tribute for a man who loved music.

Grandkids singing Jesus Loves Me as they say goodbye to their beloved Grandpa.

I’m reminded of one of my fave Scriptures Psalm 30:5 “Weeping may come for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” Joy that gives us the strength to praise God even in the most difficult times.

Praising God isn’t always easy. But God surrounds us with community to praise for us when we can’t praise for ourselves.

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The Gift of Community

Our hands outstretched on each other’s shoulders linking back to our dear Bens urn. The words of commendation spoken together as we trust Ben to God’s care. Moments later, a rousing rendition of This Little Light of Mine is sung as we process out. Together, in community, we sang, we cried, and we laughed as we remembered our beloved friend. I can still see and hear us all standing in that brewery in Wisconsin singing a very rousing moving rendition of the hymn Canticle of the Turning.

And months later, I gather with another group of friends for yet another funeral. The entire pew was filled with this group as we said goodbye to our friend Rachel. We stood around the casket together. Again we cried, we sang, and we remembered this beloved child of God.

I watched as over 20 women colleagues gathered around the railing after communion at Steph’s funeral. A symbol that together Steph and all gathered in this place were part of this cloud of witnesses.

And at Jim’s funeral, his wife and children gathered under the tent as the American flag draped over his casket is folded and presented to his wife. Taps and the 21 gun salute permeate the air. Tears fall. Another group of people gathered to say goodbye.

Community is a gift in the midst of loss and grief. Together, we grieve. Together, we know we are not alone. Together, we proclaim in the promises of eternal life knowing we will see our loved ones again. Together, we are the cloud of witnesses, called and claimed by God.

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Sitting in the Book of Job

It is so easy to shout out questions of “Why” when someone is taken from us so unexpectedly. But we are not alone in our questioning. In the book of Job, the word “why” appears 23 times. Of those 23 times, 18 of them are Job asking or shouting “Why?”

During times of great loss, it is easy to find ourselves sitting in the midst of the distress of the book of Job. Job is hit hard as he continually experiences loss and grief throughout his life. And it is during these times, that God sends Job’s friends to sit quietly with him. However, his friends are not so good at trusting in God’s promises for Job and for them.

The book of Job is filled with challenging questions and unexpected answers. Yet despite it all, Job remains faithful to God. In our own times of loss, are we willing and able to remain faithful when we are grieving? Wondering why our loved one was taken from us so unexpectedly?

Job teaches us that God hears our every cry and prayer. Job also teaches us that we are not alone. In community, our friends will speak for us when we cannot speak for ourselves. They will sing for us when we cannot sing for ourselves. They will pray for us when we cannot muster up the strength to pray for ourselves. Job reminds us again and again of the humanity of Jesus. Job is actually filled with the words that so many of us cry out in the midst of our own losses.

I will admit there have been many times in my life when I have cried out “Why” There have been many times I have found myself sitting and reflecting in the book of Job. There is something about the book of Job that brings us comfort in the midst of our loss and grief.

So, my friends, if you are still asking those questions of why, know that it is normal. But also take some time and sit in the book of Job. Reflect on how Job can be faithful despite all of his loss. Can you muster up the strength to remain faithful too? Because the truth is that God promises that God will never leave us or forsake us. However, sometimes it is hard to trust in that promise; it is hard to see Jesus standing right next to you in your grief. But he is there!

Linking up with Kristin and Porch Stories and Holley and Coffee for your Heart!

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The Lenten Weary Road of Grief

Lent is the time in 40 days leading up to Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday. The truth is that so often we want to skip over Jesus’ crucifixion and death straight to Easter Sunday. Yet we cannot have Easter without first experiencing the pain and reality of Good Friday.

Grief often feels like journeying on the Lenten weary road. We wonder how long the road will last. We stumble and fall. We trudge our way through the muck and mire of our Lenten weary roads. And often in the midst of grief, we find ourselves as road weary travelers.

This past Lent, I found myself on the road wondering how very long that road would be. There are still so many days that I find myself trudging along this road. I am tired and weary from watching my dear friends being buried. I am tired of children having to say goodbye to their parents way too early. I am tired of shedding holy tears for those I have loved and have loved me.

The 40 days of Lent are long over as Easter came and we celebrated that life not death has overcome the grave. Yet there are still many days that I still feel like I am standing in the wilderness trying to find my way to the cross and then ultimately to the empty grave. Yet as Clarence W Hall reminds us, “Easter says that you can put death in the grave, but it won’t stay there.”

In other words, life ultimately has the final word. In all actuality, our loved ones are no longer with us here on earth. But we will one day be united in heaven. It is hard to live our days without them. Yet the promise is that one day we will see them again. The promise is that God will never leave us or forsake us.

And trusting in that promise, I know that I won’t always feel this way. I know that eventually the road will lead me to the empty tomb. It just might take a long while to get there. But resurrection does happen. Life does have the final word!

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The Veil of Grief

The sky is dreary and gray. The trees are beginning to or have lost their leaves. It feels drab and dreary as I walk outside to journey across the parking lot to the church. As I am walking, I cannot help but think about how grief is like this. Grief is like a dreary fogging Fall morning where one cannot see what is coming next.

However much like the fog, I know that the veil of grief will begin to lift and the sun will peak forth. Like I mentioned the other day, in my blog post, grief has a way of knocking us over or we ride it gently. We ride it gently until the fog of grief is lifted up.

I know that the sun will again shine. I know that my hope is found in Christ. I also know that my grief is not done alone. There are others in community who carry it with and for me; for us. Because like my friend Lindy shared, grief is not just something dying. It is a changing of a relationship.

I am reminded of those days in May of 2017 where I found myself living in liminal space; wondering what was next and looking towards the future. In those days, the relationships around me were changing. And to be honest, there are days I still grieve and mourn because the relationships continue to change. Yet I am reminded of Ellie Holcomb’s words “Sometimes we have to bury dreams, leave them deep in the earth behind us, how can I go on?” The reality is that even in the midst of all kinds of grief, we can go on because God does not leave us or forsake us.

Grief ebbs and flows. It is a reminder that we loved and were loved. And, my friends, there are days that it seems like that veil will always stay covered. But, I promise, the veil does lift. The veil leads way to light; the light who shines through the darkness.

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Sunday Simplicity

I’m going to keep Sundays simple during Write 31 Days. It might be a song, Scripture, a blog post or whatever. Yesterday there was a really great blog post about grief over at Incourage. So check it out Here!

A song that has and continues to speak to me is from Ellie Holcombs album Red Sea Road. The song is actually the song with the same title. These words really speak to me in the midst of all kinds of grief. “Sometimes we have to bury dreams, leave them deep in the earth behind us.”

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